Participants: Willie Oliver, Elaine Oliver
Series Code: MGH
Program Code: MGH000057
00:30 Welcome to Marriage In God's Hands.
00:32 I'm Willie Oliver, Director of Family Ministries
00:35 for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.
00:37 I'm Elaine Oliver, Willie's partner in ministry
00:40 and a Marriage and Family Consultant
00:42 for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America.
00:44 We're delighted to be with you today.
00:47 Today, we're going to be talking about commitment.
00:50 A topic we've titled "Till Death Do Us Part. "
00:54 Commitment is dynamic.
00:58 And it's really a choice that we make.
01:01 There is no other way to be committed in marriage
01:04 unless we make a choice.
01:06 And it's a choice to be faithful till death do us part.
01:13 For no other reason than we have made the promise
01:19 in marriage to do so.
01:21 And that promise is to God, and we take those vows
01:25 when we get married.
01:26 And it all sounds beautiful and wonderful when we stand
01:30 before the minister on our wedding day
01:32 and we say these beautiful words of commitment to one another.
01:37 And yet, when you say the words, "till death do us part,"
01:40 I'm sure it hits at the core of our beings
01:44 because it sounds like such a long time,
01:47 it sounds like forever.
01:49 And it is in fact, forever.
01:51 Commitment is making a decision to stay in
01:56 your marriage relationship until death separates us.
02:01 That's right, if we look at the Bible, at what it says
02:03 in the book of Matthew 19:5-6, we see that it says:
02:28 This is God talking about what marriage is to be like.
02:30 It's to be a union of a man and a woman.
02:33 And it's to be a union that is lasting, forever.
02:38 Invariably, people are afraid of marriage because they think
02:42 that forever is a long time.
02:44 In fact for many, too long.
02:45 But, what makes it too long? Why is it too long?
02:49 If, in fact, we love someone and we have, in fact,
02:53 made a commitment to that individual,
02:55 so much so that we have become exclusive by becoming married,
02:59 well, don't we want it to last forever?
03:03 Certainly, that's God's intent for marriage.
03:05 For it to be forever.
03:08 Well, let's take a look at commitment and
03:11 a deeper definition of what commitment means.
03:14 We've done a little bit of research on the word commitment,
03:18 not just in the word of God, but we also know that
03:21 from some marriage researchers, two in particular,
03:23 have a specific definition of how commitment is expressed.
03:29 And these researchers are Dr. Michael Johnson
03:32 from Penn state, and also Scott Stanley from the
03:34 University of Denver.
03:35 And they say that commitment can be expressed in two ways.
03:39 We have personal dedication and we have constraint.
03:42 So there are two ways of expressing commitment.
03:45 Dedication and constraint.
03:47 When we look at dedication commitment, we're talking about
03:51 our personal commitment, our personal dedication
03:56 to our relationship, to our marriage.
03:58 So, what is my personal dedication when I'm
04:00 dedicated to something?
04:02 It means that I am going to invest in it.
04:05 I'm going to tie my personal goals to it.
04:07 I'm going to look out for the best of the relationship.
04:12 I'm going to sacrifice for it.
04:15 It's as if I'm taking care of my garden, again.
04:18 I love gardening and I love flowers.
04:21 And I particularly like taking care of orchids.
04:25 So when you're talking about dedication, you're talking about
04:27 something that you're excited about doing.
04:30 Absolutely. That I cherish.
04:33 That you want to be involved in.
04:34 That you've made a choice to be involved in.
04:36 It's not just something that's been put on you.
04:38 But something that you desire to do,
04:40 and something that you have joy in doing.
04:43 That's correct, and so that's dedication commitment.
04:45 I'm doing it for personal enjoyment, but also
04:50 for the good of this relationship,
04:53 if we bring it back within the context of relationship.
04:56 Then there's the other side of commitment
04:59 which is constraint commitment.
05:01 And constraint, on the other hand, refers to an obligation.
05:05 And that obligation has everything to do with
05:08 the fact that I have made a decision.
05:11 And has very little to do with the fact
05:14 that I have personal dedication.
05:17 So, it's more like stability?
05:19 One being like satisfaction,
05:21 I think dedication being like satisfaction.
05:23 I am satisfied, it brings satisfaction to me.
05:25 I enjoy it, I want to do it some more.
05:28 And then constraint is more like stability.
05:32 Correct. So for instance, I stay in the relationship
05:34 because I made a vow.
05:37 I took a vow on my marriage day that I would be committed.
05:42 So there is some personal motivation to stay in this
05:48 relationship because of the vows.
05:50 So that's an obligation, if you will.
05:53 Now that discomforts a lot of people.
05:55 Because we don't like to feel that we have to do anything.
06:00 It's sort of goes against our personal freedom, if you will.
06:05 So, we are sometimes discomforted by
06:10 this notion of constraint commitment.
06:12 And what we often like to say to people
06:15 is that constraint is actually a good thing.
06:18 Because when your dedication is low,
06:21 when you no longer feel personal satisfaction,
06:25 personal joy in this relationship,
06:28 then my constraints, the fact that I may be staying
06:31 in this relationship because I made a vow,
06:35 because we have children,
06:38 because everyone around us is expecting us
06:41 to stay in this relationship, that's not the worst thing
06:45 that could happen for a relationship.
06:47 When you talk about when the dedication might be low,
06:51 we have constraint.
06:52 This is important here because marriage is like
06:57 every other human endeavor.
06:59 We're not just going up, there's sometimes we're going down.
07:03 Human beings are mercurial.
07:07 We're not steady.
07:10 Sometimes, we're on a high. Sometimes we go down.
07:13 We go up, we go down. We go up, we go down.
07:15 And that's going to happen to every marriage.
07:19 So, you're not going to feel ecstatic about
07:23 being in the relationship every single day of your life.
07:26 I know, those of you who are not yet married,
07:27 who are watching this program are thinking,
07:29 "That's not going to happen to us. "
07:31 That's what every premarital couple believes.
07:33 "Oh, I love him so much and he loves me so much
07:37 that we can't wait to be together.
07:39 And we're just going to cherish every single day together.
07:43 We're going to have a wonderful time. "
07:44 Well, I want to encourage you to do have a wonderful time,
07:47 and plan to have a wonderful time.
07:48 But I want to warn you that human beings are moody.
07:54 And sometimes the mood is up, and sometimes the mood is down.
07:58 And when the mood is down, you need something other than just
08:03 a feeling of joy, and ecstasy, and dedication to keep you.
08:08 Hence constraint.
08:12 Correct, and just to state a little further about the
08:14 ups and downs, that every relationship will have
08:18 it's peaks and it's valleys.
08:21 And sometimes the peaks are very high,
08:26 and sometimes the valleys are very low.
08:28 But, we're all going to go through these
08:31 ups and downs, as you mentioned.
08:32 And the sad thing is that too often couples exit
08:37 their relationship when they're in the valley.
08:40 And if they just hang in there a little longer
08:42 because of the constraint, because you say to yourself,
08:46 "I made a vow, I made a covenant with God and with my spouse,
08:52 and we're going to get through this.
08:54 We're going to, through God's power, we're going to
08:57 work through this valley, we will experience a peak again. "
09:02 And so, if we can say anything to couples,
09:04 if you will just allow yourselves to just
09:08 get through the valley, get through those dark days,
09:11 we will again experience the peak.
09:14 It's interesting that attitude, Dr. Scott Stanley's notion
09:18 of commitment, where we speak about these two concepts of
09:22 dedication and constraint.
09:24 There's another concept as well,
09:26 that is contributed to the literature in marriage research
09:30 by Dr. Paul Amato from Penn State University.
09:33 And that concept is called "good enough marriages. "
09:39 What he says is that most marriages that end in divorce
09:43 are in "good enough marriages. "
09:47 The thing about it is, many times, people think
09:48 that if they're not always ecstatic in their relationship,
09:52 there's something wrong with their marriage.
09:53 If they're not always feeling a thrill,
09:56 there's something wrong in their marriage.
09:57 Well as we've said before, we need to nurture
10:00 fun and friendship.
10:01 If we want to keep up a marriage that's going places,
10:04 that's excited, that's dynamic, that's happy, that's joyous,
10:08 that's having fun, well we need to be intentional about that.
10:11 But, when we're not intentional, it has a way of
10:15 dipping into the valley.
10:18 While that's happening, the marriage is
10:20 a good enough marriage.
10:22 Most people exit, in fact, many people exit
10:26 good enough marriages.
10:28 And what Dr. Amato says, that if they would just hang on
10:32 for a little longer, and perhaps would go to a marriage retreat,
10:36 or visit a counselor, or speak to their pastor, or someone
10:40 who's having a good marriage who can mentor their marriage,
10:43 to get back to where it use to be, that is could be good again.
10:46 So, if you're out there and you're having difficulty
10:50 in your marriage, and you feel that your marriage has
10:53 plateaued, well think about what you can do
10:57 to make it better.
10:58 Because it's up to you.
11:00 If you're in the marriage, you certainly have the power
11:04 to do something for it.
11:05 Right, and we also understand that there are going to be many
11:09 phases along the journey of life,
11:11 along the journey of marriage.
11:13 Such as child rearing, maybe a spouse loses a job,
11:17 or an illness, or a parent has to come and live with a couple.
11:22 So, there are many challenges that are a lot more difficult
11:25 than just "we no longer have fun in our relationship. "
11:29 There are some real challenges that couples face
11:32 every day in their relationship.
11:34 But even those challenges can be dealt with
11:40 and can be worked on.
11:41 And we can work through our marriages if we have a good
11:45 balance of dedication and constraint commitment
11:49 in our relationship.
11:50 Always remembering that every conflict, every challenge
11:55 is an opportunity for growth.
11:57 I like to look back at what Jesus has to say in the Bible
12:00 about the whole notion of commitment.
12:02 And going back to the text that we used earlier on,
12:04 in the book of Matthew 19:5, when it says, "and be joined
12:09 to his wife," that word "joined" comes from a Greek word
12:13 that means "to be united to, to be connected to. "
12:17 In some of the other versions, it means "to be glued to. "
12:21 So, when Christ speaks about what marriage should be like,
12:26 what kind of commitment we should have,
12:27 we're talking about sticking together.
12:29 Not being stuck, but sticking together.
12:32 Why? Because you made a decision to stick together.
12:36 Also, marriage is about unity.
12:37 And marriage is about covenant.
12:41 What is covenant?
12:42 Covenant is a promise that you've made.
12:45 Covenant is a decision that you've made.
12:47 Covenant is not based on what you've done for me lately.
12:51 Covenant is based on the long term view of a relationship.
12:56 So, it doesn't matter what your marriage
12:57 might be like right now.
12:59 You need to be committed.
13:01 You need to make a decision that your marriage
13:04 is going to be good.
13:05 Why? Because you're helping to make it good.
13:07 And if Christ is in the marriage, and your spouse
13:11 is in the marriage, and he is connected to Christ,
13:14 we can make this work.
13:16 Because with God on our said, we cannot fail.
13:20 We're going to continue some more.
13:22 But right now, we're going to take a break and
13:25 just take a few moments, and we'll be right back.
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14:13 Welcome back.
14:14 We've been talking about "till death do us part,"
14:17 the issue of commitment in marriage.
14:20 And it really isn't an issue, it's more a matter of
14:23 what grounds our relationship.
14:25 And we were looking specifically at the two expressions
14:28 of commitment, which are dedication commitment
14:31 and constraint commitment,
14:33 And so, we want to take a little time to just
14:36 talk a little bit about how this is expressed.
14:40 How does it look?
14:41 What do dedicated couples do to keep their marriage
14:45 relationship going, to stay committed in their relationship?
14:49 Well, even before you speak about that, what they do,
14:52 I think we need to say a little bit about what they are.
14:56 What are dedicated couples?
14:57 Dedicated couples are couples who understand that
15:01 they're an "us", they are a unit.
15:03 They are on the same team.
15:06 The Bible speaks about husband and wife coming together
15:09 to become one.
15:11 Dedicated couples know that there are not only two of them,
15:16 they're actually one.
15:17 And being one means that you have the same goals.
15:21 It means that you have the same plans.
15:24 It means that you have the same values.
15:28 That you want the same thing out of life.
15:30 That you want the same things for your children.
15:32 That you want to build up a kingdom of God.
15:35 If you're both Christians, and Christ is in you
15:40 and Christ is in your marriage, then you certainly have a basis
15:43 on which to build a solid foundation for your marriage.
15:48 A solid foundation for commitment.
15:50 A solid foundation for going the distance.
15:54 Because sometimes it gets rough, as you mentioned.
15:57 I think it's very important what you just shared.
16:00 Specifically for, well let's say not just for married couples,
16:06 but for premarital couples.
16:07 That's why we speak so much about premarital counseling
16:13 and premarital education, and getting this early on
16:17 in the relationship.
16:18 As a matter of fact, we recommend that couples get
16:22 premarital education before getting engaged.
16:25 Because that way, there isn't that pressure
16:29 to have to cancel a church reservation,
16:32 or cancel a reception hall reservation.
16:36 And you can then really focus on the relationship.
16:39 Because it's really, really, really important
16:42 to make sure before marriage that you share similar goals.
16:47 And how do you know that?
16:48 By having real conversations.
16:50 I think many premarital couples believe that they do
16:54 have the same goals because when they're dating
16:57 they're only sharing the things that they have in common.
17:00 And what I found really interesting with
17:01 premarital couples is that they often say when you ask,
17:04 "who are you dating?" "Oh this guy. "
17:06 "Why are you dating him?"
17:07 "Oh, we have so much in common. "
17:09 That's because that's the only thing you speak about.
17:11 You don't speak about the things that you don't have in common.
17:13 You only speak about the things that you do have in common.
17:15 And premarital education forces you to talk about topics
17:19 that are not always the most easy to talk about.
17:23 You know, how many children you'd like to have.
17:27 Your family of origin.
17:28 What kinds of experiences you've had.
17:30 Invariably, people only talk about
17:32 the things they want to share.
17:34 And the things that they think might be a deal breaker,
17:37 or anything that may not show them in their best light,
17:41 they don't want to talk about it.
17:42 And those things are the most crucial in marriage.
17:45 And when they come to the surface after you're married,
17:48 well, many people feel betrayed
17:50 and they feel, "Wow this is a deal breaker.
17:53 This is not what I signed up for. "
17:55 So it's important, even as we're talking about
17:57 commitment in marriage, that we concentrate on
18:01 what we should know even before getting into marriage.
18:05 So let's talk a little bit about what dedicated couples show.
18:08 Tell us some of that, Elaine.
18:12 I just want to back up just a little bit.
18:13 Because I want to interject at this point again about
18:16 this whole notion of deal breaking.
18:19 And the fact that in marriage, there is no such thing
18:23 as a deal breaker, per se.
18:26 So, when we're talking about commitment, we're talking about
18:29 covenant, again as we said earlier, and is worth repeating,
18:32 that we're talking about making a decision to stay in this
18:37 relationship for the long haul.
18:39 So, I just want to interject that we're not talking about a
18:43 relationship where there is continued infidelity.
18:48 Where someone is having affairs over and over and over again.
18:52 And this person refuses to end their affairs.
18:57 We're not talking about a relationship where someone
19:00 is experiencing violence, is experiencing abuse,
19:04 physical abuse, or sexual abuse, or emotional abuse.
19:07 So, we're not talking about those things.
19:10 Because those things are covenant breakers.
19:13 Well when you do those things, you're saying that
19:16 you don't believe in your covenant anymore.
19:18 Because a covenant is a promise that you make
19:20 to be honest, to honor your mate, to be faithful,
19:24 to love them, to cherish them, to be kind, to be humble,
19:28 to be truthful, to have integrity.
19:31 And how do you have integrity if you're abusing your spouse?
19:35 How do you have integrity if you're having an affair?
19:37 So indeed, when we're talking about commitment
19:39 we're talking about covenant.
19:41 And a covenant is a promise that we make to our spouses
19:45 'til death do us part.
19:46 And yet, covenants cannot be kept
19:50 without the power of Jesus Christ.
19:52 So, we cannot overly state that if marriage is going to be
19:57 worthwhile, if marriage is going to be good,
20:00 if marriage is going to be spiritual,
20:01 we've got to be connected to Jesus so that we can be
20:04 connected to each other for life.
20:07 And then we can reflect God's glory in our relationship.
20:13 So, going back to your question.
20:14 So, what do dedicated couples show?
20:16 What do they look like?
20:17 Well, first and foremost, dedicated couples
20:20 make their relationship a priority.
20:22 What does that mean, Elaine, that you make your
20:25 relationship a priority?
20:27 I make it the most important thing in my life,
20:30 second only to God.
20:32 This is a little dangerous ground we're walking on here.
20:35 Because there are people, and we know this when we
20:38 do our coaching, our education classes or marriage conferences,
20:43 people always say, "Well we have children. "
20:46 Or, "What about the children?"
20:47 "I have to put my children first. "
20:49 And I often say, especially to women, that if we put
20:54 our mates first, we'll have more than enough time
20:58 for the children.
21:00 Our relationship has to be first.
21:03 That comes before anything else.
21:05 So, we show a priority for our relationship.
21:09 More important than work, more important than our
21:15 ministry at church.
21:17 Because sometimes, we like to get away with the fact that,
21:21 "I'm a deacon or deaconess at church.
21:24 And I've got to be at church first thing Sabbath morning. "
21:27 Or, "I've got to go to church on Thursday evening
21:30 to wash the communion plates and I'm sacrificing
21:33 my relationship. "
21:34 Maybe that was date night.
21:36 And it's ok if we're going to do these other things.
21:40 But we've got to have a conversation about it.
21:43 We've got to respect the relationship.
21:45 And this is what people don't understand.
21:47 We can still fit ministry in.
21:49 We can still fit in time for the children.
21:52 We can still fit in time for work.
21:54 And guess what, we can still even fit in time
21:57 for our other personal friendships.
22:00 I want to go back to the whole notion of
22:03 making your relationship a priority.
22:05 Because you mentioned a deacon, that's also true for elders.
22:09 But even more importantly, it's also true for pastors,
22:13 for people in fulltime ministry.
22:15 Lots of people in fulltime ministry, like we've been,
22:19 run the risk of losing their marriage because
22:25 they give it a secondary place.
22:28 "Oh, you know, I have to study to preach. "
22:30 Well yes, you have to study, you have to give Bible studies.
22:33 Well yes, you have to give Bible studies.
22:35 But not at the expense of your spouse.
22:37 Certainly not at the expense of your children.
22:39 And we've found over the years, that there are many individuals
22:43 in ministry who've lost their families because
22:46 they didn't have their priorities in the right place.
22:50 So let's understand that if you're going to be committed
22:53 in marriage, you need to give a greater priority
22:56 to your marriage relationship.
22:58 Why? Because your spouse is the only person
23:02 in the universe with whom you're one.
23:06 Well, hopefully we're one with Christ.
23:08 But other than Christ, I'm not one with my father,
23:11 or my mother, or my children, but with my spouse.
23:14 So, yes indeed, if we're going to be committed,
23:18 couples who are committed show a greater priority
23:22 to their relationship.
23:25 They also, dedicated couples that is, show a greater
23:29 fulfillment with surrender.
23:31 And what does that surrender mean?
23:33 That surrender means that I am willing to sacrifice
23:37 for my relationship.
23:39 So, I am willing to give up whatever it is
23:44 that I need to give up, in order to have a more fulfilling and
23:48 and satisfying relationship with my spouse.
23:51 The interesting thing about that, that I love about
23:55 this whole notion of surrender, it's the same things as our
23:59 relationship with Christ.
24:01 That sometimes we feel like the little marbles, if you will,
24:06 the little rocks that we have, that we're holding on to,
24:09 that we don't want to let go of
24:10 to nurture our relationship with God.
24:13 And God wants to give us so much more.
24:16 He wants to give us huge blessings.
24:19 Jewels, if you will.
24:21 And we're holding on to our little fake things,
24:24 our little tiny things.
24:25 And He wants to bless us with more.
24:27 And it's the same thing with our relationship.
24:28 So, in essence, we're really not giving up anything.
24:33 We have only to gain.
24:35 And we have experienced that in our own relationship,
24:38 where we have put our relationship at the forefront.
24:41 Where we have put God first, our relationship second,
24:45 and then everything else falls into place.
24:47 And we've never regretted it.
24:49 That's correct.
24:50 And when we get off track, we realize, "uh-ho. "
24:52 We've got to get this back on track.
24:54 We've got to put our relationship first again.
24:57 Yes, and there are other things
25:00 that committed couples do.
25:02 And they show less concern for other things.
25:04 Ok, less concern for other things.
25:06 Yes, I may like to play basketball.
25:10 I want to go out and play with my friends.
25:11 And not that I shouldn't, or that I couldn't.
25:13 But, my marriage is a priority.
25:16 If I have to make a choice, and we don't always
25:19 have to make that choice.
25:20 But we need to get to the place where we realize
25:22 that we need to put our marriages first.
25:25 Why? Because Satan knows that if he can destroy marriages,
25:28 he can destroy the family.
25:30 And if he can destroy families, he destroys the church.
25:32 He destroys our witness.
25:34 And then, dedicated couples also have a
25:38 greater commitment to the long term view.
25:41 Knowing that marriage is for the long haul.
25:44 And knowing that they want to make it good.
25:48 In the book of Revelations 2:4-5,
25:52 there is an important text that says:
26:16 It is talking about commitment to God,
26:17 but it's also talking about commitment to our relationship.
26:21 What is it that we're remembering?
26:22 We've lost our first love.
26:24 What did we do when we first got marriage?
26:26 What did we do?
26:27 The reason why we got married, we couldn't wait
26:29 to be with each other.
26:30 Remember what you did.
26:32 Repent from pulling back from that.
26:34 And go back and do the things that you did at first.
26:37 So if you use to date, keep dating.
26:40 That's why we had so much fun.
26:41 When we were dating.
26:42 Because of the priority we gave to our relationships.
26:46 Well, Ellen White illuminates this in Adventist Home page 99,
26:51 that Jesus wants us to have happy marriages.
26:53 Here's what she says:
27:18 So, this is not just fantasy, it is God's plan for marriage.
27:21 He wants us to be happy.
27:23 That's why the power, the promise of success
27:26 in Philippians 4:13 is so poignant.
27:28 What? I can do all things through Christ
27:32 who gives me strength.
27:33 We hope that each and every one of you will put your marriages
27:37 in God's hands.
27:38 And by so doing, experience the joy and the love and the fun.